Way too much emphasis is placed on the rate of response to direct mail. Many experts say a 2 percent response is average. Some will say less; others say more. Here’s what I say: Your response rate will be between 0 and 100 percent. How’s that for an answer? I say that because I know, from experience, that rate of response is difficult to predict. Many factors influence it. Get them right, and you should get a good rate of response. Flub one or two, and your direct mail won’t perform as you had hoped. Here are a few of the biggies.
What you are offering makes a difference in who will respond and how many responses you will receive. Almost anyone will call or visit a business if it offers them $100 to do so. But if you are selling a service or a product, the rate of response will be much smaller.
By smart, I mean a well-designed mailing that clearly and concisely communicates your message or offer, is attractive and stands out in the daily mail. How hard is that? Well, given the poorly conceived printed pieces that slip through the mail slot, more difficult than it should be.
Because direct mail is more art than science, I encourage clients to test their pieces. Ideally, you should develop two pieces, making changes in copy, design, photography, etc.
You’ll need a sample of about 5,000. Create Piece A, and mail it to 2,500. Create Piece B, and mail it to 2,500. All of the mailings should go to the same zip codes. Design it so that one person gets Piece B and their next-door neighbor gets Piece A. Tests don’t ring true if they aren’t sent to similar audiences.
If your mailing list is outdated or if it isn’t fine tuned to fit your targeted audience, you are wasting paper and postage. A house list, in other words, a list of past customers, should get a better response than a purchased one. But if expanding your customer base is a goal, a purchased list, targeted to your audience, is essential.
When you send your direct mail is almost as important as what you send. Are you asking for a charitable donation? Better ask in November and December, when people are in a giving mood. Offering a limited-time sale? Get your message in the mail in time for potential customers to use it. Want people to attend your fundraiser? Better give them plenty of notice, and multiple notices, so they’ll put it on their calendar, RSVP and buy their tickets.
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